Lenin and Trotsky sacrifice Russia to an alter of Marx while revolutionary soldiers and sailors look on in this Russian anti Bolshevik cartoon.
And the one of the worst events in history commenced, followed by the unleashing of forces hat can only be described as evil, whose repercussions are with us today.
First, Lenin's words, acting upon the Bolshevik Central Committee's decision the prior day that "an armed uprising is inevitable, and that the time for it is fully ripe."
I am writing these lines on the evening of the 24th. The situation is critical in the extreme. In fact it is now absolutely clear that to delay the uprising would be fatal.
With all my might I urge comrades to realize that everything now hangs by a thread; that we are confronted by problems which are not to be solved by conferences or congresses (even congresses of Soviets), but exclusively by peoples, by the masses, by the struggle of the armed people.
The bourgeois onslaught of the Kornilovites show that we must not wait. We must at all costs, this very evening, this very night, arrest the government, having first disarmed the officer cadets, and so on.
We must not wait! We may lose everything!
Who must take power?
That is not important at present. Let the Revolutionary Military Committee do it, or "some other institution" which will declare that it will relinquish power only to the true representatives of the interests of the people, the interests of the army, the interests of the peasants, the interests of the starving.
All districts, all regiments, all forces must be mobilized at once and must immediately send their delegations to the Revolutionary Military Committee and to the Central Committee of the Bolsheviks with the insistent demand that under no circumstances should power be left in the hands of Kerensky and Co.... not under any circumstances; the matter must be decided without fail this very evening, or this very night.
History will not forgive revolutionaries for procrastinating when they could be victorious today (and they certainly will be victorious today), while they risk losing much tomorrow, in fact, the risk losing everything.
If we seize power today, we seize it not in opposition to the Soviets but on their behalf.
The seizure of power is the business of the uprising; its political purpose will become clear after the seizure....
...It would be an infinite crime on the part of the revolutionaries were they to let the chance slip, knowing that the salvation of the revolution, the offer of peace, the salvation of Petrograd, salvation from famine, the transfer of the land to the peasants depend upon them.
The government is tottering. It must be given the death-blow at all costs.The government at that point was the Russian Provisional Government, which had replaced the Imperial government and which was ruling, as a tottering democratic body, until a more perfect democratic one could be organized. Democracy was new to Russia and the body was beset by extreme forces of all types. Its' head, Karensky, was himself a Socialist and relatively radical and so the sometimes held concept the Communist minority (the Bolsheviks were a minority within a minority) were rebelling against the Czar or the Whites is erroneous.
Red Guards at Vulkan factory in 1917. Some of these men, as with many Red Guards early on, had only recently been in the Russian Imperial Army and perhaps the army of the Provisional government, which was basically disintegrating. The Red Guards would form the first units to fight for the Communist in the Civil War, but Red reverses lead to the establishment of the Red Army in 1918 which was organized and lead by Leon Trotsky.
The Bolshevik coup that resulted set in motion un-imagined forces of destruction and murder and, like Communist revolutions ever after, that violence would not only be visited upon their opponents but also their allies. In spite of Lenin's words that what replaced the existing Provisional Government didn't matter, to the Bolsheviks it very much did and in the end not only would non Communist become the victims of a Red Terror, but also other radical Socialists and Leftists of all stripes. Violence in the name of a revolutionary cause was to be unparalleled until the Communists took control in China, where Mao managed to claim the title of bloodiest modern dictator.
Lenin and Trotsky with soldiers of the Red Army.
In Russia, of course, the coup was far from unopposed and the country would descend into a bloody civil war which would drag on into a protracted doomed guerrilla war almost until the eve of the 1930s. Poland, the Baltic States and Finland would leave Russia's grasp. The Ukraine attempted to but its geographic position and nature prevented that from occurring and it would be subjected to a horrific man made famine in the 1930s. Poland would be invaded in the 1920s but threw the Soviets back, until the invasion was accomplished in league with Nazi Germany in 1939 and then completed in 1945. The Baltic States would see their independence go down due to World War Two as well although Baltic guerrillas would keep up a Quixotic effort until the late 1940s, as would some Ukrainians who attempted to use the vacuum of World War Two for the same purpose. Only Finland would really remain free of the Communist grasp, of the former Russian Empire regions.
Volunteer troops of one of the numerous anti Soviet Russian armies, not all of whose troops were volunteers by any means. Poor coordination was a major factor in the defeat of the Whites who suffered greatly in that area in comparison to the Reds. In spite of their lack of coordination, they very nearly won the Russian Civil War early on, even though they lacked any clear political goal other than defeat of the Reds.
Communism, of course, would ultimately fall. The East Germans would attempt it first, oddly given the German role in the absolute horror of World War Two, staging a rebellion in the form of a civil insurrection in 1953, which met with Soviet armed reaction.
A Soviet T-34/85 tank in East Berlin, 17 June 1953.
CC BY-SA 3.0. File:József körút a Corvin (Kisfaludy) köznél. Harcképtelenné tett ISU-152-es szovjet rohamlövegek, a háttérben egy T-34-85 harckocsi. Fortepan 24854.jpg
The first cracks in the Communist edifice occurred as early as Lenin's administration when he was forced to allow capitalism in the country on a limited basis, due to the abject failure of Communist socialism. Stalin simply brutalized the country into economic progress, focusing on huge projects that at least were possible to organize and industrialization of what had been largely agricultural nation. Following Stalin various Soviet leaders would attempt reforms, all of which were unknowingly and slowly headed towards liberalization. It was Poland, however, which would set the end in motion by the legalization of Solidarity, a trade union that functioned as a political party. Solidarity, representing Polish working men and basing its views on Catholic Social Teaching (Solidarity is a principal of Catholic Social Teaching) would force semi free elections in Poland in 1989 and the Soviets did not react. The Czechs quickly followed with the Velvet Revolution. The Russians themselves followed in 1991, which saw a last ditch hard core effort by the holdout Communist to once again stage a coup. That one failed.
Today only North Korea, and perhaps Laos, are left as true Communist states. A couple of other countries claim to be, but they've evolved so far beyond it that, whatever they are, they really aren't Communist. China and Vietnam provide examples of that. Communism, while still a darling concept of Western left wing hipsters who don't know what it every stood for, is really dead. But the evil it unleashed in the world continues on in numerous ways, both political and social. That destructive force will be with us for years to come.